With viral video and record label clout, Betty Who rises to fame

She has a deal with a major record company, diplomas from two prestigious music schools and a hit that just went viral. But singer-songwriter Betty Who still feels like she needs to pick up the slack.

The Australian-born singer, whose real name is Jessica Newham, will perform at Rock and Roll Hotel Dec. 13, and said in an industry dominated by pop singers, starting young can be critical.

“I don’t think it’s that well-known by a lot of people that I work with that I’m only 22. People are like, ‘Shut the fuck up, no way!’” Newham told The Hatchet. “But people break into this industry really young. Beyoncé or Rihanna, they were in the studio as teenagers, so I feel like I’m falling behind a little bit.”

Newham saw a surge in fame this September when her song “Somebody Loves You” scored a viral video of a Salt Lake City couple’s flash mob marriage proposal in a Home Depot.

The video racked up 10 million views in under a week. After Newham performed on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live, the station flew out the men in the video to have dinner with Newham as a wedding present.

A week after the video came out, Newham signed with RCA Records, which is also home to Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake. The song appears on her first EP “The Movement,” which was released in April 2013.

Her sound is fun, poppy and danceable, but with a heartfelt indie edge. Newham describes her music as “Passion Pit meets Katy Perry,” and her musical taste is unabashedly mainstream – she named Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell, Usher and pop music standards Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera as influences.

Newham said she’s seen more fans come from the U.S., where she studied as a teenager at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan and Berklee College of Music in Boston.

But she is eager to return to her roots and establish her musical footing in Australia.

“In Sydney, I’ve had friends from when I was growing up email or call me or text me being like, ‘Oh my gosh, your song was playing here!’” Newham said. “I very much plan to go home as soon as I can and start promoting and start getting my name out around Australia, because I feel so connected to it and I miss it a lot.”

Newham said her first album is nearly complete. It will be released in the spring of next year and feature tracks from her first EP.

For now, Newham is focusing on her first tour, a small series of shows across the United States throughout January.

“The inconvenient thing about doing random shows is there’s no continuity to it, you live your life until Saturday night when you have to run and get to the show,” Newham said. “I don’t love that as much as being on the road, waking up every day knowing you’re doing a show that night.”

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